First Line: Terror came as a vibration, a plucked-wire note more felt than heard, primary to the deadening heat, to the flick of unseen insects against her face, to the oppressive night humidity that pressed into her pores.
Eve Hardaway is a newly single mother whose life has dwindled to a handful of exits on the freeway. Wondering when she'd stopped being something worth fighting for, wondering when she'd become a shadow of the person she used to be, Eve decides to take one week off to do something of which she's always dreamed: an eco-tour through the jungles of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
During lunch break on a hike, Eve wanders off to take care of business and sees a man throwing machetes at a human-shaped target off in the distance. Eve is frightened and takes care to avoid being seen while she's heading back to the group. Along the way she finds a digital camera marked with the name "Teresa Hamilton." The leader of the tour brushes off her concerns, but when they arrive back in camp, Eve takes a look at the memory card on the camera and sees that Teresa took a photo of the same man. Not only that, but in checking her room, she finds things that Teresa left behind. A quick check on the internet tells Eve that Teresa Hamilton has disappeared.
The man in the jungle knows someone was snooping around his house. He's violent, he's utterly ruthless, and he'll do anything to avoid being discovered. A storm that has wiped out the roads and all communication with the outside world has trapped Eve and her fellow tourists in the jungle with a dangerous predator. If she's going to make it back home alive, her determination to live will prove to be the only resource she has with which to fight.
A word of warning: I wouldn't advise you to start reading this book unless you have a large block of undisturbed time. When I began reading Don't Look Back, I lost all track of time, was late for an appointment, and the entire time I was gone, I was champing at the bit to get back to Eve Hardaway's story.
Author Gregg Hurwitz wanted to create a character who could be completely outmatched physically, a character who would be forced to survive by wits alone, hence Eve Hardaway, his first female main character. Eve is superb. Yes, Don't Look Back is a lightning-paced, edge-of-your-seat thriller, but more than that it's wonderful character study of a woman forced to rediscover her true self in order to survive. One way Hurwitz conveys how far Eve has wandered from the person she used to be is in conversation with others. She'll think what she really wants to say, but her actual response is always something meek and mild. These responses gradually change, and as they do, readers will cheer her on.
This is definitely Eve's show, but her fellow tourists and the owners of the tour company are well-drawn. However, I do have to admit that my interest in them was more along the lines of betting which ones would die. The most controversial character is the man hiding in the jungle. His reasons for originally going there are frightening, and although his political rants are difficult to swallow, they do indeed show how his beliefs and his actions have driven him insane.
If you don't want political extremism or the torture and killing of animals in your fiction, Don't Look Back may not be the book for you. On the other hand, you may well find it just as riveting as I did.
Don't Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz
St. Martin's Press © 2014
Hardcover, 400 pages